POLITICS

Here's Why So Many ANC MPs Are Suddenly Resigning

They're either possibly protecting their pensions or realising they won't be allowed to vote to remove Zuma.

06/04/2017 16:02 SAST | Updated 06/04/2017 17:00 SAST

ANALYSIS

Wondering why all the ministers and deputy ministers who were fired are resigning as members of Parliament?

There are two reasons, depending on where they stand in relation to Jacob Zuma.

1. Those who want to see him removed realised they would not be able to vote with their conscience come the motion of no confidence set down for 18 April in Parliament.

2. MPs and deputies who were axed but have no major beef with Zuma may have a more pragmatic motivation -- shoring up their pensions which would be much higher if calculated from their salary as a minister than as an ordinary MP which is what they defaulted to after their removal from Zuma's executive on 31 March.

Voting with their conscience

Those who are opposed to President Jacob Zuma have realised the ANC has closed ranks around the president and won't allow its MPs to vote with their conscience, as previously hoped. ANC chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, who was formerly critical of Zuma, has been beaten into shape along with Zuma's other critics at a bruising meeting of the ANC's National Working Committee (NWC) on Monday. Mthembu put out a statement on Wednesday dashing any hopes that the ANC in Parliament would vote with opposition to remove Zuma in a motion of no confidence debate that has been set down for 18 April in the House of Assembly.

Mthembu was previously openly critical of Zuma's decisions and the reshuffle in particular, igniting hopes among the opposition that some in the ANC caucus under him could be persuaded to vote with the opposition to remove Zuma.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told the media that his party was in talks with ANC MPs who had expressed interest in voting with the opposition when anger with Zuma was at its height after his removal of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and reshuffling of nine other ministers just after midnight on Thursday last week. The move triggered a downgrade in the country's rating from S&P to junk status and three of the ANC's top six publicly denounced the move -- Cyril Ramaphosa, Gwede Mantashe and Zweli Mkhize .

But Zuma and his allies won the day at the NWC meeting on Monday night, and the briefing on Tuesday made that clear. The resignation of the axed ministers and deputy ministers, who still served as MPs, began soon after. To drive the point home a clearly chastised Mthembu put out a statement on Thursday from his office saying there would be no secret ballot and that the ANC would uniformly oppose the motion of no confidence as they had done previously.

Former transport minister Dipuo Peters resigned on Wednesday and was followed by Jonas on Thursday and former Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson a few hours later.

Protecting their pensions?

However, Joemat-Pettersson and Peters were not openly opposed to Zuma and their resignation may be down to a far more practical matter: ensuring they don't lose millions in their pension.

Two sources familiar with mechanics of government pension told The Huffington Post South Africa that pension for government workers was based on their salary, and the average MP earns half of what a minister earns -- and even less when all the benefits are added. To move to being a Parliamentarian instead of a minister could results in a loss of over R2 million in pension savings, with benefits and tax taken into account.

HuffPost SA understands The Political Office-Bearers Pension Fund called axed members of Zuma's executive to explain the situation, leading some to make the decision to protect their pension pay-outs.

Many of those axed in Zuma's reshuffle are close to retirement age.

Peters told radio stations she was stepping down to focus on her health and also to prioritise her children.

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